Lords Amendment: In page 77, line 12, at end, insert:
and shall provide that the amount of the said charge shall having regard to the terms and conditions on and subject to which planning permission has been granted be determined without any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to one applicant over another.
§ Mr. Silkin
I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
This is an Amendment to meet a case which was put forward on the Committee stage by hon. Gentlemen opposite to the effect that there should be no undue preference by the Central Land Board to particular individuals. As the Amendment stands, it is made contingent upon the making of regulations for the conduct of the Central Land Board, and it provides that, if regulations are made, then such regulations shall contain a provision that the Central Land Board shall show no preference. It is felt—and I am sure that the House will feel with me—that if we are to have such a provision at all, it ought not to be contingent upon the making of regulations, but that it ought to be stated fairly and squarely in the Bill itself. The purpose, therefore, is to disagree with the Lords merely for the purpose of putting the same thing in a subsequent Amendment to be moved in lieu of the Lords Amendment.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
I find myself in the curious position of agreeing to disagree on this occasion. I think that the draft to be proposed by the right hon. Gentleman carries, out in a more convenient manner, the purpose which, no doubt, their Lordships had in mind.
§ Mr. Molson
I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the House will be glad that the Government have, at last, agreed to insert in the Bill the general principle of equity for which we contended upstairs. I confess I am a little bit surprised to find that the right hon. Gentleman is altering the actual draft of the Amendment that was carried in their Lordships' House. I note that the Lord Chancellor, the senior 860 Law Officer of the Crown, paid a tribute to the ingenuity of the noble Lord who had secured a draft that had exceeded the ingenuity of himself and his advisers. However, the Government have now tried their ingenuity once more, and I welcome the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman is to move to the Lords Amendment.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the Amendment which he is to move, because it does seem to me that he has climbed down from his usual pedestal of self-righteousness and accepted the common fairness point of view, which is, and has been throughout this Bill, that of the Opposition. I am a little concerned about the technical legal position. Apparently, one of the Law Officers of one place thinks it is right and in another place another Law Officer says something else is better. Perhaps, we shall have a new Lord Chancellor before long. I congratulate the Government on following the Opposition with such wisdom
Amendment made in lieu of the Lords Amendment last disagreed to: In page 76, line 47, at end, insert:
and shall not give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to one applicant over another."—[Mr. Silkin]
Lords Amendment: In page 77, line 22, at end, insert:
(5) Any person aggrieved by any assessment or determination of the amount of a development charge may appeal to a Tribunal consisting of a member or members of the panel constituted under Part I of the Schedule to the War Damage (Valuation Appeals) Act, 1945, selected in accordance with the provisions of Part II of that Schedule, and the provisions of Part III of that Schedule shall in so far as they relate to appeals to a Tribunal have effect in relation to appeals under this Act as if for any reference to the War Damage Commission there were substituted a reference to the Central Land Board and as if for any reference to the War Damage Act, 1943, there were substituted a reference to this Act and the Lord Chancellor shall make rules for regulating, subject to the provisions of that Schedule, appeals to a tribunal under this Act.
(6) For the purposes of an appeal under the last foregoing Subsection of the Central Land Board shall at the request of the appellant or of the Tribunal furnish to the appellant and to the Tribunal a statement setting out the particulars of the grounds upon which the development charge was determined by them, together with any facts and contentions relevant thereto.
§ Mr. Silkin
I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
The effect of the Amendment is to enable a developer upon whom a development charge is being served to appeal to the tribunal set up under the War Damage (Valuation Appeals) Act, 1945, against that determination. This was a matter which received a good deal of discussion, and there is very little now that I can add to what has already been said as to the reasons why I think that an appeal is inappropriate in a case of this kind. I will summarise them, without going into them at any length. I think, first, it misconceives the relationship between the Central Land Board and the developer. The Central Land Board are the agents for the Government, and in whom, virtually, the development rights are vested. They are in a position analogous to that of the Crown Commissioners, who have land to sell or to lease which they are offering to the public, and they determine the price, or the development charge, in accordance with principles laid down in the Bill, and in accordance with regulations that will be made and approved by the House; and having done that they are in exactly the same position as a good landlord governed by the principles of good estate management combined with the public interest. Therefore, it seems to me inappropriate that there should be an appeal against a determination of that kind.
Secondly, the Bill does give the Central Land Board a good deal of elasticity. I think hon. Members opposite have accepted that principle as a sound one; that is to say, that the Board should be able to have regard to special circumstances. The Bill gives the Central Land Board a good deal of discretion, and the trend of our discussions in Committee was that they ought to be given more discretion rather than less; that they ought not to be tied too much to the Minister. But the exercise of discretion cannot be regarded as a suitable juridical matter. It is very difficult to say to a person who has been entrusted with the right to exercise discretion that he has exercised it wrongly, or to substitute for that exercise of discretion some other exercise of discretion. Therefore, again I submit it is inappropriate to permit an appeal of that kind.
862 My third reason is that to have appeals against determinations of this kind might make the whole administrative machine unworkable. No doubt a great many determinations will be made, and if every owner, or a substantial percentage of owners even, went to appeal it might make the work of the Central Land Board impossible, because every appeal not only involves administrative work, but takes up the time of that very scarce body of men, the valuers. The valuer would have to be taken off his work of making determinations on behalf of the Board, and put on to the preparation of cases of appeal, which would very much tend to slow down the work of the Board itself. One of the criticisms which has been made about the development charge is that it will slow down development. But to permit of appeals would tend to slow down development very much more, because valuers would be taken off their normal work and put on to the work of preparing and attending these appeals.
We have gone a very long way towards ensuring that the Central Land Board does not act arbitrarily, and does not make a determination which the owner has to take or leave. The Central Land Board will give the owner or his agent information to enable him to see for himself how the determination has been made, and on what basis. The Board will be willing—in fact, they will be required—to discuss with the representative of the developer the basis upon which the charge has been assessed, the agent knowing in advance what that basis, is, and there will be discussions as between one valuer and another. I believe that is a much more effective and satisfactory method, even from the point of view of the developer, than the right of appeal to an arbitrator. I am satisfied that with this safeguard, with a full disclosure of the basis of the charge, with the register which will be made public, and with the right of discussion and negotiation between the parties, no injustice will be done, and the proposed developer will have the fullest opportunity of making his case known to the Central Land Board.
There is only one other thing I should like to say, and that is that the Central Land Board, like every other body, will naturally and necessarily want to make a succcess of their functions. It may be said that the measure of their success will 863 be the amount of development charge which they can level. I can assure the House that that will not be the case. The measure of their success will be the amount of development that takes place, and the Central Land Board will be told in no uncertain terms, and left in no uncertainty, that development is required much more than development charge. Moreover, there is, of course, a limit to the amount of development charge which they can extract, because if they go beyond a certain amount they are deterring development rather than encouraging it. They will very readily ascertain, if they have not already done so, that the kind of development charge they are levying is calculated to have the opposite effect from that which they are required to secure. For all these reasons, I feel that it would be wrong and inappropriate and not in the best public interest, to set up the tribunal which is contained in the Amendment sent from another place. Therefore, with very great regret, I invite the House to disagree with the Lords in that Amendment.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
The Minister has moved the rejection of this Amendment, and in doing so the main burden of his remarks has been that an appeal in a case such as this would be inappropriate. He has told us that the Amendment is based on a misconception of the relationship between the Central Land Board and the developer. He went on to say that the relationship which would, in fact, exist would be such a relationship as that between the Crown Commissioners and the purchasers of land from them. Of course, the fact is that that argument is sheer nonsense. The Crown Commissioners are, in no sense of the word, monopoly owners, either of the whole of the land or of any complete set of rights in land. They are merely one landlord among a large number of landlords in this country. If we were here setting up a body to control a limited amount of land, or a limited right in land, it might well be that the machinery of appeal would be quite unnecessary. The reason why, during the passage of this Bill through this House, we pressed for a right of appeal was because the Central Land Board are to be a complete monopoly. That is the reason we support this Amendment today; indeed, it is really the only reason.
864 In another place the Lord Chancellor objected to this Amendment—which was there carried against the Government—on what he described as grounds of principle. I am bound to say I find it very difficult indeed to see what grounds of principle can possibly be adduced against giving the subject some right of appeal, or someone to whom he can go to decide whether or not he is getting fair treatment, when he is being confronted with a monopoly institution which has complete power in the field over which it can operate to deal with him exactly as they please.
I am very glad that we have an opportunity of discussing this Amendment today, because owing to the operation of the Guillotine when the Bill went through this House, I think I am right in saying that this main question of principle—and it is perhaps the largest question of principle which arises in the Bill—was never brought to an issue, either in Standing Committee or on the Floor of the House. It was discussed, of course, in relation to other Amendments, and it was discussed during Second and Third Readings, but I think I am right in saying that the House has had no opportunity of deciding this particular question, standing by itself, in the course of our discussions so far. Therefore, it is essential that we should give it very full consideration at the present time.
I cannot help feeling that the country at large—it is certainly my experience from discussing this matter outside the House—is wholly unaware of the effect of this Bill, and of what the powers of the Central Land Board will be under the Bill. Abstruse terms such as "development charge" and "development value" are used, and people tend to shy off those terms, and to think that this is a technical matter which does not affect them in the least. I am quite certain that the country does not yet realise that this Bill sets up a complete monopoly in the right to buy land for development; that, from the time this Bill becomes effective, anyone wishing to do on land anything which has not been done on that land before will not only have to get planning permission, but "will have to pay to the Central Land Board precisely what that Board like to demand from him. If a man wishes to start up in business in a shop which has been used for some other business than that which he wishes to conduct, 865 it will be possible for the Board to demand any sum of money they think fit For example, the Central Land Board will be within their legal rights in demanding £100,000 from a small greengrocer if he wishes to set up in business in a shop where previously a shoemaker had been carrying on his trade. That is what this Bill does.
Of course, I am not suggesting that it will be exercised in that way; but I suggest that before such powers are given to an organ of the executive, something should be done to ensure some right of appeal, so that the citizen who complains that his personal rights have been injured can go somewhere and ventilate his objection. It is true that the Central Land Board are directed by the Bill, as it now stands, after considerable amendment, to comply with certain injunctions regarding the assessment of the charge in particular cases. In the first place, the Board are to have regard to the increase in value of the land which it is proposed to develop. They are merely to have regard to that. When the Bill begins to operate it will not be very difficult for the Central Land Board to be able to assess fairly accurately what such increases may be. But this is a Bill which it is intended will operate not for a year or two, but for all time. When this monopolistic Board has been operating for a number of years they will themselves, by demanding a high or a low price, be able to regulate the increase in value of any particular form of development. To begin with there will be some yardstick, but as time goes on that yardstick will cease to be effective, because it can be altered by the policy of the Board itself.
The Central Land Board are now directed to give "no undue preference," as a result of the Amendment we have passed, and are also to comply with certain regulations, which are to be made by the Minister, in carrying out their duties. My own view is that these are pretty poor and pretty thin safeguards, so far as the subject is concerned. I do not believe they will amount to anything, when it is a question of a subject acquiring development rights from the Central Land Board. If we take the Government at their word, and assume that these safeguards are binding on the Board, is it not the strongest possible argument to say that 866 there should be some right of appeal to ensure that they are operating in the subject's favour?
At the moment the Board are given these more or less vague directions, but there is no sanction to ensure that they are carried out, and, whatever the charge the Board may make, the subject will have either to accept or refuse. The subject will have no right of appeal, because nothing of the kind is provided for in the Bill. I submit that if the Government's intentions are to be properly carried out, and this Board are to be guided by general rales or regulations, that is the best possible reason for giving a right of appeal, so that if the subject says that undue preference has been exercised, or that the regulations have not been properly complied with, he will have some redress. In these circumstances, I hope that this matter will go to a Division, and that we shall protest against what I regard to be a piece of tyrannical legislation.
I wish to say a word or two in support of what has been said by the hon. Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), which, among all who have considered this question, must have struck a note of reason. The Minister said that one of the reasons why he could not accept this proposal was that there would be no time if extensive appeals were made. That reason could apply to almost every other case which could be put forward. For instance, the Chancellor of the Exchequer could well say that we cannot have appeals against Income Tax assessments, because if every taxpayer appealed against his assessment, it would be impossible to carry on. It is really not an argument at all, and I cannot believe that there would be this vast number of appeals.
I do not wish to impute that the Board will act in any immoral way, but if the Board know there is a right of appeal, there will be a better check to make them carry out their duties in the interests of all concerned, than would be the case if they knew they had complete arbitrary powers. The hon. Member for South Hendon gave a case which sounds ridiculous. He said that £100,000 could be charged on one shop. Is that so, or is it not? I do not believe 867 it will ever happen, but the question remains whether the Board should have that power without there being a right of appeal.
The right hon. Gentleman said the regulations would provide that the Board should consider developments and not the development charges. That is a really valuable statement, but there is nothing in the Bill to that effect, and nothing on record, other than what appears in HANSARD. Is it not possible to have that valuable statement incorporated in the Bill, so that it can be recognised by the authorities? Whenever HANSARD is produced as evidence to show the intentions of a Minister or of an Act, it is merely brushed aside. It is always said that Debates or arguments in the House should not be taken into consideration in interpreting an Act. Hon. Members opposite are anxious to give great and sweeping powers to boards, executives and officials. That is their policy, but I wonder whether they really want to set up all these boards without having some kind of appeal. They would get their policy accepted by a far greater number of people in the country in that way, than would be the case if there is no check against these unlimited powers.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The Minister, in asking the House to reject the Lords Amendment, advanced three reasons, with which I should like to deal quite briefly. He said that the Amendment suggested from another place misconceives the relations of the Central Land Board with the would-be developer of land. He then went on to talk about the position of the Central Land Board being analogous to that of a good estate landlord. When a good estate landlord is offering land for any particular kind of development, the would-be developer, if he is dissatisfied, can go elsewhere to buy land. There is hardly ever a condition where it is impossible for a man who wants to build a house, develop a small estate, or erect a factory to find the right kind of land upon which to carry out that development. The point was dealt with completely by my hon. Friend the Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), when he pointed out that the great difference in the Central Land Board was that it was a monopoly owner. It will be in a position to dictate the terms and 868 the developer, if he is dissatisfied with the development charge, will not be able to go elsewhere, because he will be dealing with the one and only landlord. The second point he made was that under the Bill and, presumably, under the regulations, about which we do not know, the Central Land Board will be allowed a great deal of elasticity. By that, I understand the Minister to mean that if the developer meets the representatives of the Board, and advances certain reasons why, in his view, the determination of the development charge is too high, they will be able to say to him, "We put in that figure because, in our view, certain circumstances arise, but we are inclined to agree with what you say, and think that we can reduce the figure." That must be what the Minister meant by "elasticity." They can put the charge up or down in accordance with the circumstances in each case. But that is no reason why there should not be an appeal on the part of the developer if he is dissatisfied. It is an additional reason why an appeal is desirable. If the would-be developer is dissatisfied with the determination, and if he had the right of appeal, it would be open to the representatives of the Central Land Board, just as it would be open to him, to appear before the tribunal, and say why the charge was fixed as it was. So I see nothing in the second argument of the Minister which is valid in his attempt to disparage and discredit the need for an appeal tribunal.
The third and final reason which the right hon. Gentleman advanced against it was that the whole administrative machinery might break down. That is an extraordinary admission for the designer of that machinery to make; it is extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman should say that the machinery will be under such stress, that valuers will be so exercised, that the danger of an appeal here and there will upset the whole thing. It is an extraordinary condemnation of the administrative machinery which the Minister himself has created. I think it possible that the administrative machinery may break down; I have never hidden my view that there is a great danger that even without an appeals tribunal, that machinery may break down—there are not enough valuers in the country to deal with all the claims that will be made—but to say 869 that an occasional appeal here and there would cause the whole machinery to break down will not bear examination. It might be said, with equal force, that there is no need for the House of Commons to examine legislation, that it wastes a lot of time, and that it would be better to accept it as it is. I often think that that is the attitude of right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
The Minister said that the most desirable thing was safeguarded, that there should be frank discussion, that the officers of the Board will be able to meet would-be developers, and tell them the basis on which they have worked in assessing a development charge. The right hon. Gentleman said that that is much more important than an appeal. I do not dispute the desirability of conversations face to face. It is highly desirable that a man should be able to meet the assessors of the charge, say why he thinks it too high, and negotiate in exactly the same way as representatives of a deceased owner can negotiate at present with the district valuer of the Inland Revenue. That is the kind of thing we all want to see, but, in reserve, there must be the right of appeal. There is this right in the case of determination of Estate Duty.
The fact that the appeal is there will help people to feel that the machinery is fair. These things have a great psychological effect. If a man feels that he is faced with something against which he cannot appeal, he is inclined to believe that the State machinery which is being erected against him is a soulless and heartless robot. The man who feels that he is free, as a sovereign individual, likes to think that there is some court of appeal to which he can turn. I do not know whether we have the right tribunal in this case, but if the Minister does not like it—although he did not advance any reasons against it—let him accept the principle and suggest another kind of tribunal The fact remains, however, that we attach the greatest importance to the right of appeal.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
I do not wish to detain the House for long after the excellent speeches we have just heard from my hon. Friends on this matter, and also because the Minister said—and this is the only point on which I agree with him—that most of this ground 870 has been covered in earlier stages of the Bill. Like my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) I was shocked and surprised at the Minister's denial of the possibility of an appeal because of the administrative inconvenience that would cause. I admit that he put it higher than administrative inconvenience. He said that there would be a danger, if appeal machinery was introduced, and multiplication of appeals followed—and they would not necessarily follow—that the whole scheme might become unworkable. As has been said, we do not dissent from the general principle that there will be great administrative and staff difficulties in putting the whole of the project of this Bill into operation. But we do say that these are things that must be taken into account-in the initial design of the project.
We pointed this out on the Second Reading, and the right course to take, if that fear is entertained, is generally to limit the objectives of the Bill, and not immediately to jettison the interests of natural justice and equity. I know that the Attorney-General does not care for the phrase, "natural justice," but I am sure he will agree that it applies in dealings between man and man, and more particularly in dealings between the citizen and what amounts to a monopolistic, bureaucratic, machine. I suggest that the interests of natural justice or equity are involved in this way, that an appeal is essential if either of two things apply: There is a substantial possibility of errors in determination of the charges, or, as between the two parties, one may be put in a position of unfair balance against the other or, indeed, placed in the position where he could exercise an arbitrary pressure.
In this case, I think it is clear that both these considerations apply, and, therefore, it is not enough to say that because it would be administratively' inconvenient there should be no appeal. The Minister has stated that, in any case, an appeal is not necessary, because the terms of the Amendment misconceived the relationship between the parties. With great respect, I think that the Minister, if he does not misconceive the relationship, is, at any rate, on this occasion rather misrepresenting it to the House. The hon. Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), in his most admirable speech, has 871 exposed the obvious fallacy of the comparison between the position of the Central Land Board and the Crown Estate Commissioners. He has exposed that fallacy, which was the example which the right hon. Gentleman took to point out that no appeal was necessary to guide the actions of the Central Land Board in these cases.
The suggestion is made, and was made in another place, that an appeal was not only unnecessary but unsuitable because this is a commercial transaction—the right hon. Gentleman has, in fact, repeated it this afternoon with his talk of the principles of good landlordship and the principles of good estate management—and, therefore, not a question which lends itself to the judicial decision of an appeal tribunal. But it is a tainted commerce, a commerce tainted with monopoly, and that at once puts it right outside the ordinary dealing which the Lord Chancellor suggested as the method by which these development charges could be discussed, regulated and agreed. He said that these things should be left to the higgling of the market, and it is a new doctrine that the new Socialism prefers the higgling of the market to the principles of natural equity. Even though in ordinary transactions one might feel there is a good deal to be said for the higgling of the market—[Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman wants to interrupt——
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
The hon. Gentleman, not for the first time, finds discretion the better part of valour.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
If the hon. Gentleman wants to interrupt, I shall be ready to give way; otherwise it is a little distracting to have these sedentary squawks coming from the flanks. The hon. Member wants to know where the argument is leading It is that, although the principle of the higgling of the market may be an admirable one in ordinary deals between private parties in regard to land, it is not one that should apply here. This is very one-sided higgling with one party packing the punch of monopoly, and the other party driven into the corner and 872 having no elasticity of defensive manoeuvre through the lack of an alternative purchaser. That is where my argument is leading, and that is the point, as I see it, which makes an appeal necessary in the interest of justice as well as in the interest of good administration. The procedure of the higgling of the market was defended in another place on the grounds that it led to the principle of give and take; but it is much more likely to lead, so far as the Central Land Board is concerned, to the principle of take without very much give. It is because of this unequal relationship between the parties that we feel that the machinery of the appeal tribunal must be inserted in the Bill.
§ Mr. J. S. C. Reid
I should not have intervened after the speeches which we have heard, were it not for the very great importance of the issue involved, and I trust that in the course of my intervention I shall not repeat arguments that have already been adduced, because I feel sure they have been well stated; but there are some other considerations which have only been alluded to, if they have been alluded to at all. I am glad that the right hon. Gentlemen did not stress too much the argument about the administrative inconvenience, because I am sure that he realises that there are only a multitude of appeals where a multitude of people feel that they have been treated unjustly, and if there is a widespread feeling of that kind, it means that there is, in fact, a great deal of injustice; and any argument to the effect that there will be such a multitude of appeals as to be impossible to deal with, necessarily involves the admission that the whole basis of the development charge is unequitable.
Coming to the point which has been hardly mentioned at all—is there any check whatever if the Central Land Board make wrong decisions? Apart from questions of discretion, there are at least two matters which I think almost every one would agree ought to be subject to some kind of check. First, there is the Amendment which we have just inserted at the end of Subsection (2), that the Central Land Board are not to indulge in undue preferences. Who is to be the judge of that? Is the Central Land Board to have the final word as to whether or not there is an undue or unreasonable preference because, if that is so, then the Amend- 873 ment is completely meaningless and without any effect at all: of course they would never give a preference which they thought to be unreasonable. The Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman himself moved into the Bill is really of no avail unless there is some appeal.
I now come to the second point. Regulations will lay down principles of some kind or another, and they may be different principles in relation to operations or usages for different times and different classes. Quite obviously we shall have questions of law arising, and difficult questions of interpretation as to the exact meaning of these principles and which of them applies in a particular case where the border-line may be difficult to draw. Is there to be no appeal in these cases? Is the Central Land Board to be the final arbiter both as to the meaning and as to the execution of these regulations, because I can see nobody else who can determine what these things mean except this Board. I do not know how many lawyers the right hon. Gentleman intends to put on the Board, but when we come to legal questions, and we are bound to come to a good many over so elaborate a territory as this, surely there ought to be an opportunity of appeal.
The right hon. Gentleman has assimilated this matter with others to which it bears very little relationship. He said it was like a sale, but the Central Land Board will do two different things. In one of their activities, they act as a person buying land and selling it for the combined price of land and development charges; then they will act as sellers, and monopolistic sellers at that, and the reasonable arguments put forward with regard to monopoly sales will apply. But how can it be said that in any case there is anything at all resembling a purchase and a sale, when the owner of the land goes to the Board and asks how much he must pay in order to do certain operations on his own property. Purchase and sale surely must mean one thing—that a man has some opportunity of refusing and going elsewhere if he does not get what he wants.
I am bound to say that one of the effects of denying an appeal seems to be that there will be people who will be aggrieved and will feel that they have 874 been charged more than a just sum and more than the premises are worth. I take it the same applies in the English Bill as in the Scottish Bill, that if not satisfied, a person will be able to stop his development project and will not be charged if he never begins the work. If that is so and people feel that they are aggrieved and have no appeal, what will they do? A great many of them will say, "I will not develop the land at all if I cannot get justice. The land will stay as it is." Thus desirable development projects will be lost. No matter how well the Bill works and how many safeguards there are in it, one of the disastrous effects will be that it will seriously hamper the development of land in this country, and it will be infinitely worse if there is no appeal. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to think about this again from that particular angle.
It is said that this is a matter of discretion, but it is very limited discretion. We have just introduced one Amendment to make certain that no undue preference shall be admitted, and that all classes must be treated in the same way. To some-extent, that was implicit in the original Bill, because there are classes to be dealt with under the Regulations. I could see the Government saying that there should be no appeal if every case stood by itself and was a separate question of discretion, but when we get into classes as we obviously do here, it limits the scope for discretion very much. Discretion will have to be discretion in how to treat a class of case. When there is discretion of that kind it is necessary to have some method of clearing up the matter other than by the mere discretion of the Board itself. For all these reasons, as well as for those put forward by my hon. Friends, we cannot possibly rest content with the proposal submitted by the right hon. Gentleman and we will certainly make our protest in the Lobby.
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)
I was hesitating a little as to whether to reply to the discussion that we have had because these matters have already been discussed very fully in Committee and in another place, and the reasons for rejecting this Amendment today are exactly the same as the reasons which were advanced for rejecting it when 875 first it was moved in the Committee upstairs. The speeches to which we have listened from hon. Members opposite—and I do not say this in any way offensively, for my own speech is open to exactly the same criticism—show quite conclusively that arguments do not gain any weight or strength from the mere fact that they are repeated time and time again. For that reason I hesitated a little and wondered if I would be serving any useful purpose by repeating again the arguments so clearly advanced before, and which commended themselves to the Committee upstairs.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not going to carry that argument too far. A good many of us were not in the Committee upstairs and we must assert the right of the House to have an answer to the arguments put forward here.
§ The Attorney-General
If the hon. Gentleman was here—and I do not know whether he was or not—when my right hon. Friend moved the rejection of this Amendment he would have heard the arguments which were adduced then.
§ The Attorney-General
It does seem to me that this Amendment is based on a fundamental misapprehension in regard to the position and the functions of the Central Land Board. If, as some of the speeches by hon. Members opposite appear to suggest, that Board had a judicial or quasi-judicial function there might be something to be said, though not a great deal, in favour of an appeal, but that is not the position. The function of this Board is a far more utilitarian one. I do not mind the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) using the phrase—"natural justice." On the contrary, at times I think it is a very useful phrase. To use the language as used by noble Lords in the famous case of Arlidge against the Local Government Board, if anyone wants a high sounding phrase, the meaning of which is completely vacuous, that is a very useful phrase indeed, which is why hon. Members opposite are so excessively fond of it and why it is an unpopular phrase in the courts of this country.
876 The tribunal under this Bill is not entitled to exercise functions of a judicial or quasi-judicial character at all. This Board is selling, or a more analogous description would be leasing, on behalf of the State the development rights which it is the purpose of this Bill to convey and transfer to the State. The duty of the Board is to decide, not as a judicial body but as the owner of those rights preparing to lease them or to sell them, what amount in the public interest should be secured for the State by way of development charge, having regard perhaps to the desirability of encouraging development of a particular class in one area or having regard perhaps, on the contrary, to the desirability of discouraging development in a different area. That really is a function which could not possibly be discharged by an independent tribunal, having to deal ad hoc with each particular appeal which came before it.
What the House of Lords and the Court of Appeal have been saying only recently in a number of cases, where appeals have been directed to the courts against the administrative decisions of tribunals is that the courts simply have not got the information or the responsibility for deciding these questions of public interest, and it is for the board, under a general direction of the Minister, to decide, having regard to the public interest and looking at the picture as a whole, how it wants to promote the development of the whole estate, if I may put it in that way, and to decide in negotiation with each particular purchaser what is the proper price to charge to that purchaser if he wants to change the existing use of his land and develop it in some new way. It would be an absolute abdication of the function and responsibility of the Board to make these decisions matters that might be subject to reversal and appeal.
§ Mr. Molson
In the case of an individual who considers that an undue and unreasonable preference has been given to some other person in comparison with the treatment which he himself has received, under the Amendment does the Attorney-General say that there is no redress for such a man?
§ The Attorney-General
If and when that case arises, the High Court will have to decide whether it does not already possess powers on what is called the Crown 877 side to interfere by way of certiorari or prohibition with what would be an improper exercise by this Board of its jurisdiction. That, however, is a very different matter from saying that there shall be a right of appeal in every case.
As we see it, the position is fairly comparable with the case of a landlord who owns the whole of the available land. I agree that it is a monopoly and that is why I am saying that it is comparable with the case of a landlord who owns the whole of the available land, who has let it to a tenant for the purpose of continuing its existing user, and who is now asked by his tenant to grant a new lease for development purposes. It would be an entirely novel principle that where someone—whether it be the State, the Central Land Board as representing the State, or a private individual—has something to sell or lease in that way, which the purchaser is not compelled to purchase if the price charged is too high, he should have to submit the price to arbitration. That is essentially a matter for negotiation between the parties, and if the landowner having a monopoly asks too much by way of development charge, the development will not occur, the purchaser will not be willing to pay for the development rights, and the Board will suffer in the end.
That is the real, sufficient and obvious safeguard which will ensure that the Central Land Board is not likely to charge such prices as will discourage development in areas where it is desirable that development should take place. If one contemplates the ordinary case of a sale, the purchaser cannot say to the vendor, "I am going to buy your property, but I am not going to buy it at your price; somebody else is going to fix the price at which you will be compelled to sell it to me." What vendor would consent for a moment to an arrangement of that kind? And the fact that the vendor here is the State or the Central Land Board and enjoys a monopoly of the things which are to be sold is no reason why a third party, not knowing the full picture and being responsible for development of land throughout the country as a whole, should be entitled to come in in a kind of quasi-judicial capacity and fix the price to be paid in each particular case. For these reasons which, as I have said, are a repetition of 878 the reasons advanced before, we must reject this Amendment.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I am sure that we are all very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not think it is possible to say that the matter has been unduly delayed, and I certainly do not wish to delay the House in coming to a decision, but frankly the right hon. Gentleman has totally failed to give full weight to the element of monopoly which is coming in here. He is creating a synthetic duke who owns all the land in England. The Duke of Omnium was a joke compared to this duke. Hon Members will be familiar with a masterly passage in one of Chesterton's short stories which describes how a journalist who had fallen into a quarrel with the duke, some minutes afterwards left the duke's house and some hours afterwards left his land. Nobody will ever be able to leave this duke's land, and I think that for the sake of the Minister himself, and of the Bill, there should be some alternative to the process which he sees as a correct one—namely, that no development should take place at all. We are just as desirous as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that development of the land of England should take place, but we think that there should be some safety valve and that there should be some method such as we propose, without a total freeze-up in development, whereby anybody can tell whether it is legitimate or not. There should be some form of adjudication over and above the simple ipse dixit of the Central Land Board.
I do not think that there is any possibility of reconciling the views held on the two sides of the House, but I ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to admit that we on this side feel that a new and dangerous thing is being decided here. It is a thing which will slow up development, whereas our proposal is one which will expedite rather than arrest the development which both sides of the House desire. It is extremely dangerous to allow the process to work by simply saying that no development will take place. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked what purchaser would approach a vendor saying, "I propose to purchase your articles but not at the price at which you are willing to sell." We are very familiar with that in the modern economic world in which we live. Under the fixed price 879 system people continually approach vendors and say that they are willing to purchase rationed articles but not at the price they are willing to fix. If the thing goes wrong the article in question disappears under the counter or the process of purchasing ceases altogether.
In this case the only remedy that the right hon. Gentleman suggests for a bad determination by the Central Land Board of the value of a piece of land is that the whole of the development should be arrested, and there is, so to speak, a strike until it works. We feel that the machinery we suggest is a more expeditious way of dealing with the matter, and some appeal
§ from the Duke of Omnium ought to be devised, because the creation of this synthetic duke will be the worst piece of work ever done for the development of land in England, if he is allowed by the decision which we are about to take to establish himself as the landlord of all the land in England, from whom no appeal is possible and whose ipse dixit settles the value, now and forever, of every piece of land which any man is trying to develop for any purpose whatever.
§ Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 258; Noes, 68.881
|Division No. 349.]||AYES.||[3.47 p.m.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Deer, G.||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Diamond, J.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Dodds, N. N.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Driberg, T. E. N.||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Dumpleton, C. W.||Keenan, W.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Durbin, E. F. M.||Kenyon, C.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Dye, S.||Key, C. W.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Edelman, M.||King, E. M.|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Kinley, J.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Lavers, S.|
|Ayles, W. H||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Leslie, J. R.|
|Baird, J.||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Lever, N. H.|
|Balfour, A.||Ewart, R.||Levy, B. W.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Fernyhough, E.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)|
|Barton, C.||Field, Captain W. J.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Battley, J. R.||Foot, M. M.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Bechervaise, A E.||Forman, J. C.||Longden, F.|
|Benson, G.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Lyne, A. W.|
|Berry, H.||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||McAdam, W.|
|Beswick, F.||Gaitskell, H. T. N.||McAllister, G.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Gallacker, W.||McEntee, V. La T|
|Binns, J.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||McGhee, H. G|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Gibson, C. W.||Mack, J. D.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Gilzean, A.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Blyton, W. R||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.)|
|Boardman, H.||Goodrich, H E||McLeavy, F.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Gordon,-Walker, P. C.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Grey, C. F.||Mainwaring, W. H|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Grierson, E.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Bramall, E. A||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Mann, Mrs. J|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Guest, Dr. L. Hadan||Marshall, F. (Brightside)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Gunter, R. J||Martin, J. H.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Guy, W. H.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Bruce, Major D. W. T||Hale, Leslie||Medland, H. M.|
|Burden, T. W.||Hall, W G.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Messer, F.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Middleton, Mrs. L|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Harrison, J.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Champion, A. J.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Moody, A. S.|
|Chater, D.||Haworth, J.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Herbison, Miss M.||Morley, R.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Hicks, G.||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hobson, C. R.||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|Coldrick, W.||Holman, P.||Murray, J. D.|
|Collick, P||House, G.||Nally, W.|
|Collins, V. J.||Hoy, J.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Hubbard, T.||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Corvedale, Viscount||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)|
|Cove, W. G.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Noel-Buxton, Lady|
|Crawley, A.||Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Orbach, M.|
|Crossman, R. H. S||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Paget, R. T.|
|Daines, P.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Paling, Will T (Dewsbury)|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Irving, W. J.||Parker, J.|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S. W.)||Janner, B.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Paton, J. (Norwich)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Tiffany, S.|
|Pearson, A.||Simmons, C. J||Tolley, L.|
|Peart, Thomas F.||Skeffington, A. M.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Popplewell, E.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)||Skinnard, F. W.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Porter, E (Warrington)||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Porter, G. (Leeds)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)||Webb, M. (Bradford, C)|
|Price, M. Philips||Snow, Capt. J. W||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Proctor, W. T||Solley, L. J.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Pryde, D. J.||Sorensen, R. W.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Ranger, J,||Sparks, J. A||Wilkes, L.|
|Rankin, J.||Stephen, C.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Rees-Williams, D. R.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Rhodes, H.||Stubbs, A. E.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Ridealgh, Mrs. M||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Robens, A.||Swingler, S.||Williams, J. (Kelvingrove)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Sylvester, G. O.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Symonds, A. L.||Willis, E.|
|Rogers, G. H. R.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Sargood, R.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Woods, G. S.|
|Scollan, T.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||Wyatt, W.|
|Shackleton, E. A. A.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Yates, V. F.|
|Sharp, Granville||Thomas, John R. (Dover)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Zilliacus K.|
|Shurmer, P.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
|Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Thurtle, Ernest||Mr. Collindridge.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Gage, C.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Gammans, L. D.||Rayner, Brig. R,|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Grant, Lady||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Bower, N.||Gridley, Sir A.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Grimston, R. V.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Savory, Prof. D. L|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Byers, Frank||Lipson, D. L.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Carson, E.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Challen, C.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Channon, H.||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Touche, G. C.|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Vane, W M. F.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Marsden, Capt. A.||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Mellor, Sir J.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Molson, A H. E.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Drayson, G B.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (C'nc'ster)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Drewe, C.||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Nield, B. (Chester)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Major Conant and|
|Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Lieut.-Colonel. Thorp|
Lords Amendment agreed to.